Excited children, young adults, teachers, mentors, politicians, health professionals, photographers, leaflets, drawings, enthusiasm and stories – all these were the ingredients of a great evening at the Scottish Parliament at the launch of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) scorecard looking at policy progress one year on from the publication of ‘The State of Child Health’ report. Scotland fared well in the UK context for its commitment to child health, however, the key to real success is to ensure policy commitments are delivered.
Alison Johnstone MSP, Professor Steve Turner, RCPCH Officer for Scotland, and Maureen Watt MSP, Minister for Mental Health, opened the evening and gave an insight into child health in Scotland. They were informative but brief as the main aim of the evening, as Steve Turner suggested, was to walk around and ‘have a blether’. That aim was definitely achieved.
At the event the young adults present shared their ideas to promote health and talked about their work on smoking, mental health, obesity, physical activity and other areas. We asked them for their ideas to reduce obesity in Scotland.
They showed strong support (almost 70%) for limiting adverts for unhealthy food, banning unhealthy food from supermarket checkouts and banning the use of cartoon characters or sports celebrities on packaging for unhealthy food and drink.
They're opinions on banning fast food takeaways near schools from opening at lunchtime, compulsory cookery classes or allowing only water or milk as drinks at school, were split and, finally, only a third would be happy to have only fruit for pudding at school lunches.
Using price strategies to make healthier products cheaper and unhealthy ones more expensive, promoting healthy eating and healthy options through institutions and celebrities, and ‘not allowing kids in high school to be able to go to shops at lunchtime’ were also suggestions.
These opinions are not representative of all Scottish children, but the encouraging part is that they were clearly interested in the issue and keen to have their say.
To engage them further, we set up a sugar cube guessing game, asking how many sugar cubes were in well-known food and drink products. The adults at the event performed much worse than the children, who were surprisingly accurate - a very interesting outcome!
This interactive, thought provoking and energetic evening from RCPCH delivered plenty of inspiration for improving children’s health in Scotland.